The Culture War Isn't Remotely Over

The country has made great recent strides in gay rights, but LGBT advocacy groups remain as essential as ever.
Eagle Scouts deliver a petition to Boy Scouts of America headquarters requesting the end to a ban on gay scouts and scoutmasters. (Associated Press)

Recent strides in gay rights have led some observers to conclude that the LGBT community has "won" the culture war and that full equality for all LGBT people has either arrived -- or at least is just around the corner -- and thus that organizations advocating for LGBT equality should shut down. James Kirchick made such an argument in The Atlantic just last week.

Critics like Kirchick must have somehow never heard (or simply ignored) the story of Jennifer Tyrrell, a working-class mother of four living in rural Ohio. Tyrrell's 7-year-old son, like many young boys do, asked to join the Boy Scouts of America. When other parents were too busy to serve as den leaders, Tyrrell stepped up. She was soon living a life of merit badges and butterfly knots, serving food at the local soup kitchen and working on a conservation project with her scouts. One year ago, she received a letter saying she would no longer be able to serve as a den leader. She was angry, sad, and shocked.

Together with her partner Alicia Burns, she then had to find a way to explain to her son and their three other children that the Boy Scouts kicks out gay moms like her when they try to participate in their children's lives. Not because they're bad den leaders, but simply because they're gay.

Marriage equality in 11 states, the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and more gay male characters on TV are all milestones for the LGBT community, but for moms like Jennifer Tyrrell and so many other Americans in the LGBT community, the so-called culture war is far from over.

On Tuesday, news broke that a gay couple was attacked near Madison Square Garden in New York by four men emerging from a Knicks playoff game. Nick Porto, who was left with a broken nose after the four men attacked him and his partner, said, "I've never had a feeling like this before in the city. I didn't know that it's not over, that this sort of stuff still happens. They called us faggots ... I was so naive to think that things were better here."

Last week, a transgender woman who was murdered in Cleveland was described by the highest-circulation newspaper in Ohio as an "oddly dressed" criminal. Her body was referred to as "it." Never once did the newspaper refer to Ce Ce as female, despite AP style instructing media to do so.

There is work still to do when gay people can be fired in 29 states, transgender Americans face disproportionate rates of violence and dehumanizing media coverage, and there are still doubts that comprehensive immigration reform would protect all immigrants equally. One gay male athlete from a major league and one gay male boxer have come out -- and these two, out of thousands of professional athletes, lead some to suggest that we've "won" the culture war?

Now is not the time to declare victory but to push harder than ever.

It's true that LGBT people have made great strides in the past few years. Our positive movement on marriage equality is unprecedented. But there's still just a slight majority of Americans who agree with the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples. We might never get to 100 percent, but we definitely want more than half of our neighbors to welcome our families. We have the wind at our backs and momentum on our side, but momentum and wind alone can only carry change so far.

Presented by

Dave Montez and Wilson Cruz

Dave Montez is the chief of staff and Wilson Cruz is the national spokesperson at GLAAD

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